BBC News

Fox News explains why it showed Jordan pilot video

By Tara McKelvey
BBC News, Washington

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe death of Safi Youssef Al-Kasasbeh's son was shown on Fox News

Fox News executives say they're carrying out their duties as journalists. Others, however, are appalled at their decision to air the video of a man who was burned alive.

The Jordanian fighter pilot First Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh was in a cage when he died from immolation, set on fire by members of the Islamic State (IS). A 22-minute video captured the last moments of his life.

Journalists with Western media organisations reported on his death by describing the video. Many of them followed the lead of Shepard Smith, the chief news anchor of Fox News.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPeople around the world were shocked by the murder of Lt Kasasbeh, which was shown in a video

As Mr Smith recounted the grisly moments that were depicted in the video, he said he sensed most viewers would not want to watch.

But other hosts went further. On Tuesday night Bret Baier, an anchor on Fox News, showed graphic images from the video on the Fox programme "Special Report".

"We feel you need to see it," he said, saying the footage was necessary to understanding the full extent of IS's extremism.

Then Fox posted the video - in its entirely - on their website.

The video appeared with a banner: "WARNING, EXTREMELY GRAPHIC VIDEO: ISIS burns hostage alive".

One of the Fox News executives explained the rationale for their decision.

"After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video," said John Moody, the executive editor of Fox News:

"Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content."

Some agreed with Fox's decision. Glenn Beck initially decided against posting the video on his website The Blaze but changed his mind, saying it was important the world "wake up" to the "enemy of all mankind".

"Jews, gentiles, straight, gay, black, white, western, eastern, atheist, Christian or Muslim - it is time you recognize what you are up against, look it square in the eye and call it by its name: evil and a plague on mankind," said Beck, who used to host a show on Fox.

But executives at most media organisations have chosen not to show the video of Lt Kasasbeh's death. The BBC, for example, will not show the video, link to web pages or share links on social media carrying the video.

And most of the reaction was critical of Fox News, saying it provided a platform for IS.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSome US counterterrorism experts - and others on Twitter - objected to the decision to air the video

"I was a little surprised that Fox would show it," said University of Virginia's William Quandt, who has served on the National Security Council. "I don't think we need to show every gruesome detail.

"I think it kind of plays into the terrorists' hands."

Leigh Curtis, a writer for the Nottingham Post, tweeted that Fox's decision was "absolutely despicable".

Another Twitter user, William Cooper, describing himself as an "obnoxious lefty", wrote succinctly about Fox: "new devastating lows".

On Twitter people posted photos of Lt Kasasbeh that showed him smiling and spending time with his friends.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLt Kasasbeh's's wife, Anwar Tarawneh, shown in the centre, and others had hoped IS would show mercy

One Twitter user, Maajid Nawaz,, who describes himself as an author, was outraged at the way images of the pilot's death was being used in the media.

"Want an image to tweet of burned-alive Jordanian hero Moaz al-Kasasbah?" he wrote. He posted a photo that was taken before he was held captive. "Use this one. Do not use ISIL propaganda."

The photo was retweeted more than 1,000 times, along with another image posted by a Twitter user, Joseph Willits. He wrote: "We should share his smile not #ISIS monstrosity."

Follow @Tara_Mckelvey.

Related Topics

  • Media
  • Islamic State group
  • United States
  • Jordan

More on this story

  • Jordan pilot hostage Moaz al-Kasasbeh 'burned alive'